This Family of 5 Lives Stylishly in a 200-Square-Foot Airstream
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Name: Melanie and David Raver, three young girls ages 10, 6, and 5. And one furry black German Shepherd!
Location: We live everywhere!
Size: 200 square feet
Type of Home: 1973 Airstream Argosy
Years lived in: 3.5 months, owned
Currently traveling from the California coast to the East Coast, Melanie and David and their three daughters have been a lot of places in their 200-square-foot 1973 Airstream Argosy. Exclaims Melanie, “We are having a BLAST making each new place we stop at our home!” They’re currently a few months into full-time on-the-road living, which you can follow along to on their travel Instagram account, @ourtinywander. You can see more of Melanie’s interior design skills—and the house they live in when they’re not traveling full-time—on her design Instagram account, @raveinteriordesign.
She says it was David who found this 1973 Argosy Airstream on an RV listing site online. “We were in bed and my hubby was doing his nightly search for trailers online,” she explains. “My hubby showed me the vintage Airstream and we instantly fell in love with the two-toned orange color. It reminded us of a vintage VW bus! We loved the retro vibe and the size was exactly what we were looking for. The listing was in Oklahoma so we took the family trip over spring break to go check it out, and ultimately brought her back home to California with us. That was the beginning of our tiny home on wheels journey! We spent the next two years planning, building, designing, purchasing, problem solving, LIVING and BREATHING trailer design! We have had no prior experience, however that did not stop us from taking on the project. What we didn’t know, we learned! It was our mission to make this build work for us and our family!”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Modern bohemian. I love mid-century modern, retro bohemian, and classic farmhouse. I like a clean neutral base, with sprinkles of color and a hint of bold pattern. I for sure like to bring the fun to the design party!
Inspiration: I find inspiration everywhere. Sometimes it is a color (feelin’ orange these days), or maybe a pattern (I love retro floral), or a feeling (life on the road… FREEDOM!) I was inspired to build this tiny home with all the style of full-size digs! Space is sparse, but style is aplenty. I made sure to use premium finishes such as walnut, stainless steel, concrete, and ceramic penny tile, sprinkled with elements of gold, boho patterns, and fun cheeky artwork.
Favorite Element: I love love love my front seating area, which happens to also be our dinette, our master bedroom, and chill zone! This is the heart of our tiny home. I made sure to make the bench seating extra wide so that it feels more like a lounge than a bench. This is where I sip my morning coffee and look at the window and appreciate my new surroundings. I absolutely love the front windows in our Argosy. They are wrap-around and cover most of the front of the trailer. I love to pull the curtains open, crack the window, and read my favorite book (currently reading “A Sharp Solitude by Christine Carbo”… so good!) We made sure to have great lighting in here for reading or to create a chill mood.
Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge was working with a limited square footage, and having to fit a family of five inside… and all our THINGS. The challenge was not just packing everything in, but having a comfortable space to live day to day. We had the benefit of designing and building the space ourselves, therefore we were able to ensure that it met our specific needs and that each square inch was used. There were times when we were building that we constructed drawers with a step up inside, just to be able to utilize the entire space.
We also have quite a few secret spaces under beds, which we can’t access daily, but can utilize the space to store extra blankets or seasonal items. We also made sure to maximize counter space by creating a walnut wood insert for the sink, made out of the same material as the countertops. When the sink is not in use we put the wood insert in, and it acts like a continued portion of the counter top. Our stove also has a top so when we are not using it, we close it and use it as counter space. Everything has two or more functions. You have to double up and maximize your space when living tiny. For example our dinette is also our master bed. Our sink is also our countertop. Our coat closet becomes the water storage.
Proudest DIY: I love our countertops! Walnut was almost a no-go because they are just SO expensive. We had to think outside the box and come up with a way to make them ourselves. We ended up finding a local woodworker who would plane, cut, and glue the pieces together according to our dimensions. By using a local carpenter rather than a big box store or countertop specific company, we were able to save thousands of dollars! We got to hand pick and purchase the exact boards we wanted (I love the really blonde pieces!) Not only did we save a ton of money this way, but we also got to be involved in the entire process, which was awesome! Plus we are supporting local craftsmen and small businesses, which is always a plus in my book!
I also love love love our overhead media door above our seating area. This was a last minute design decision that I feel changed the whole vibe. Originally we planned to have a white overhead door to match the bunk area. However we had leftover walnut scraps from our countertops. I had the idea to add the walnut to the overhead, to break up the white and to add visual interest. I love how you can see the walnut grain and it gives a total impact to the space. Sometimes my best design has come from having to switch gears, or a last minute decision like the overhead door.
Biggest Indulgence: Surprisingly what cost the most was all the new systems, like the water heater and the furnace. We had all the systems and lines checked by a professional right after we brought her home; we found a water and propane leak. These were fixed right away, along with new systems installed. It was really expensive right off the bat and we wondered if we were in over our head financially. However we wanted the peace of mind to know that everything was installed correctly and inspected by a professional.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I have learned that how a home feels is so important. A vibe is everything. A vibe can come from the look, feel, the sounds, or even the people in the home! My advice is focus on the vibe and you will automatically form a home you love! I also believe in minimal top notch finishes. If you have a base layer of solid finishes you love, it is easy to add in items that speak to you, as the sprinkles on top. I also strongly advise that you make sure your home makes you happy. Fill your home with things YOU love! I hope that I can encourage others to find the courage to go for the things they want in life.
When my husband and I started this Airstream renovation we had no idea what we were doing, but we had a dream and the desire to figure it out along the way. I think it is important to not let the fear of NOT knowing things stop you in life. We would spend hours online looking at videos, or reading blogs, or reaching out to others on Instagram asking for advice! I think it is normal to not know what you are doing most of the time. But those that succeed are the ones that find a way regardless. Pushing through that fear is the recipe for creating a home or life that you love!
PAINT & COLORS
- Cabinets and Walls Paint — Dunn Edwards Color Cool December Evershield Exterior paint for durability
PILLOWS & FABRICS
- Custom Cushions — Designed by me, and made by SOS Upholstery with Justina Blakeney fabric
- Throw pillows — Townsend Rowe Home from Etsy; Zig Zag Studio Design; HomeGoods; Anthropologie
- Custom Window Coverings — Dorthy’s Drapery Vista Ca. (local seamstress)
- Front Window Fabric — Black out window panels from Target
- Kitchen Shade — Fabric.com
- Bunk Shade — Fabric.com
- Bathroom Shade — Lowes
- Lighting sconces — Lucent Lightshop
- Kitchen Pendant — Amazon
- Custom Walnut Countertops — Sourced wood from local lumberyard. Carpentry work done by local woodshop. Totsi Design
- Vinyl Plank Flooring — Home Depot
- Kitchen Sink — MR Direct
- Kitchen Faucet — Amazon.com
- Stove/Oven — Dometic.com
- Fridge — Norcold.com
- Berkey Water Filter
- Backsplash — Home Depot
- Artwork Canvas — WeDefy Laser
- Rug — Urban Outfitters
Thanks Melanie and David!